Saturday, April 30, 2011

Simply Jaw dropping:Computing a theory of everything

Example first, theory later!

Here is the Demo for Wolfram|Alpha:

And here is the Theory and more discussions from Stephen Wolfram:

Interested? Try yourself here

My Two cents...this is not exhaustive, but a wonderful start!!

Some Fantastic Life Lessions from ZenHabits

Read, Enjoy and Implement.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pmail - More Control, Less Resource and Better User Experience

As per the April 2010 Radicati Group study around 90 trillion emails are sent every year and approximate email users in the world are around 1.9 Billion. Unfortunately 90% of these emails are Junk. 

These numbers are alarming when we consider the inefficiency associated with the Productivity Loss, Network usage and Email Server usage. In present avatar email systems have huge redundancy. Consider the case when an email with 2 MB attachment is sent to 1000 people (email sent to groups/Reply all/Spams) out of which only 10 persons are interested or need those data. But everyone receives a copy; the transmission takes huge bandwidth, Email servers take huge storage and ultimately People need to spend thousands of unproductive hours to delete those emails.

There are other issues with email. In today’s form once you press the ‘Send’ button you don’t have any control to restrict the content. This is because all receivers get a personal copy in their local mail box and you don’t have access to Delete that data. But ideally the sender should have a control to restrict the data even if the sender sent the email by mistake (controlling confidential data).
From the receiver’s perspective controlling unwanted emails is a pain. Sometimes we receive unwanted emails as Reply Alls and then the chain continues – everyone pressing ‘Reply All’ and flooding everyone’s mailbox. This should be changed – if the receiver marks an email as ‘unwanted’ – no other email (Reply All emails) on the same topic should not reach the receiver’s mailbox.

Permission MAIL (pmail) – a new avatar of email

Here I propose a new permission based standard of email communication – Permission mail or Pmail. Here are the basic features of Pmail communication:
·         When a sender sends a Pmail he/she do not send the whole content of the email to everyone – only a lightweight version with the links to open the content is sent to everyone. The content is stored as a single copy in the sender’s email server. Multiple copies are not created and send to everyone.
·         If the receiver is not interested in the email he/she can delete the Pmail – Deletion of a Pmail means the read/copy access to the mail is lost. The original mail content is not changed/deleted.
·         If the receiver is interested he/she will have an option to copy the content in his/her local email server – for future reference. Ideally the receiver keeps a local copy only for Business critical emails (Just to ensure sender cannot in future revoke his/her access to read the Pmail).
·         If the receiver is not interested in the email he/she will have a control to avoid any further mail discussion on the same topic (no reply all emails will come to his/her mailbox). The receiver will also have control to mark the mail as spam and in that case no mail sent from the sender mailbox will reach his/her mailbox.
·         The sender will have control to restrict the access of an email sent. As only an access is sent to the recipient (instead of a local copy) the sender can control that access in future. Of course if the recipient has already read and then copied the mail to his/her local mailbox this feature won’t work.
·         In case someone ‘Reply/Reply all’ to the original Pmail a new single copy will be generated in the sender’s email server and everyone else will get a permission link to read the follow-up conversation.
·         Anyone can again delete the follow-up mail – which simply means the deletion of the access to the original copy.


There are various benefits to this plan – for every key stakeholder, Sender, Receiver, Email Service Provider etc. Here are some of the benefits:
·         Huge savings in resources by reduction of redundancy – Huge saving of Network bandwidths, Email Server Space utilization etc. Only the interested people will download the email and associated files to local folder.
·         Less pain from Spam mails – Today Spammers send huge amount of junk emails causing big wastage of email servers and network bandwidth. In the Pmail protocol spammers need to own the data – saving corporations lot of email server space and network bandwidth.
·         More Control for sender – You can still restrict even after hitting the ‘send’ button.
·         More control for the receiver – Better Customer experience– No junk reply all need to be entertained. No need for frequent mailbox cleanup.
·         Balance between Control and Contract – In this protocol both Sender and Receiver has Control over the Content. If the Sender had full control over the content he/she can refuse sending any such email – which can be against the contractual obligations between two parties. To avoid this receiver has a permission to create the local copy. At the same time Receiver has right to control the access of the data sent to unintended recipients.
·         Huge reduction in Carbon footprint by the reduction in server needs.

Implementation challenges

This is still a theoretical concept and needs Technical Implementation. Here are the known challenges for Implementation:

·         Agreeing on the new standard by all players – This is an epoch-making change the way we communicate through electronic mails. It will take time to convince all the players to move to this new Protocol. But considering the huge benefits a tipping point will be reached and it will become the ‘Next Practice’.
·         Initially the users may be uncomfortable in this new format – they may not like that they need to access a centralized place for accessing the email content. To reduce this risk the change needs to as transparent as possible to the user. The pmail can have one or two line content(summary will help reader to decide if the email is relevant to him/her) and then a link to read the full content. The users also need to trained for the new helpful features of Pmail.
·         There may be some security concerns around this model- Public access (although restricted to the recipients only) to email servers may not be acceptable to companies (fear to hacking). In my view the email can become a cloud service and with proper User Access Control the data security issue will be greatly reduced.
·         There may be ‘unknown unknowns’ – which can adversely impact the acceptance of this protocol. This fear is more after the so called failure of ‘Google wave’ although I feel ‘Google wave’ is a wonderful product and may have been killed due to Google Internal failures.

P-email adoption in business – private cloud model

Within an organization most of the emails exchanged are internal. This makes a good case for Pmail implementation as a Private Cloud based service. Private Cloud model will ensure that no Data security is compromised as well as resource duplication is reduced. Message Archiving and Storage takes major chunk of the cost for email. Reducing email content duplication in email servers can dramatically reduce this cost. At the same time it will save money on Network use, reduction of operational costs etc.
Once Pmail is successfully implemented within Business different Public email providers (gmail, yahoo etc.) will start using the model. But for Inter domain email exchange a common standard/protocol need to be created. Different organizations such as IEEE, W3 etc. need to be involved to create the mail exchange protocol.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Analyst who makes sense

Some thoughts on US Laws

I was watching a CNBC Program on Divorce Wars and some thoughts came to my mind on US Law and Enforcement system (although CNBC Reporters generally create all the undue noise and misguide people, the 'CNBC Originals' series is worth your time). 
In one divorce fight the wife made an allegation that her husband watches and stores child pornography. To prove that she took her husband's Laptop and produced in the court.  Now Storing or even viewing Child Pornography is a serious crime by US laws and the Husband was facing life-changing punishments. 
During the investigation, it was found that all the Internet Browsing history was deleted from the Laptop. 

But the Lawyers were able to restore those histories and found a suspecting pattern which indicates that the person did not visit any pornographic site except one day on which all the materials were downloaded. Also it was found that on that date the husband was far away from home but the local offers(which pops up based on your IP address) were all from his hometown. This proves the point that the person did not downloaded the materials but probably his wife did to make a powerful divorce case. The wife wanted to ruin her husband's career as well.

The program asks some serious concerns over the marriage, financial impact of divorce, divorce laws etc.but today my point of discussion is something different. I am  concerned the way laws are formulated and the way they they are enforced. I am concerned if the lawmakers really want to stop a crime or they just want to keep a law for helping lawyers and government to make a good business from the law. Let me explain the reasons for my concern:

Let's take the case of Child pornography or a more generic case of pornography. All the lawmakers and Law enforcement authorities know that pornography is a big business in US and all over the world. It is very easy and very common for everyone to access pornography in the Internet. If lawmakers and enforcement authorities are really concerned about the society and they really want to stop the curse they have easier way to stop it rather than making allegations on few people: They can just block the sites promoting pornography.
Similar is the logic for stopping cigarette . We all know cigarette kills people and no less harmful than drugs, but lawmakers have not banned cigarette. They say they are discouraging smokers by increasing taxes, adding warning etc. But not just make it illegal to produce? They won't because they make good money out of this business. Policymaking is an art - behave!

This is not really specific to US but a very generic problem all over the world. In India we have no less laws- but all laws are meant to be broken. It helps police, politicians, lawyers and journalists...and probably everyone except the unfortunate few.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Real Time calorie and Nutrient Counter

We need an instrument which can measure calorie and Nutrient intake from food real time and suggest diet against the target numbers. We should also have an instrument which will measure calorie consumption from each and every activities, walking, breathing, seating, running in gym etc. When someone can see the In-n-Out numbers in Real time Dieting will be so easy.

Think about it. I start with a heavy breakfast and as soon as I have take the food the instrument in my stomach ticks and alerts that I have 500 calorie. Now I go to office and do some work. Before the lunch I see that I have consumed around 400 calorie. In the Lunch I take some salad and the instrument in my stomach reads 400 calorie. Also it reads that I have consumed x ml sodium, y ml of Vitamin A etc. when I go to diner it will suggest that I should take some 200 calorie dinner and also x ml of zinc and y ml of Vitamin C. Based on these numbers and also my diet targets and preferences it will suggest that I should take some Hawaiian Delight and go to bed!

Nice, huh?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Corruption Vs Lobbying

Rich and powerful people always try to influence policies and results for their needs. In India it is done through Bribes  or violent mental pressure. In India we call it Corruption. Sometimes, although not very common, these people face legal trials as well. As in the case of 2G scam.

Here in US we have lobbying power. But surprisingly this is legal and not a case of Corruption. 

The frustration is nicely put forward here:

'There are some fund managers who need to get their heads examined. If they are particularly from the western world, then they have no right to say anything about India's practices. They are coming from countries that have completely given law the go by. In the whole subprime scam, not even a single person has been arrested till date. In the case of 2G spectrum, there is virtually no scam in my view. It has been a media creation. 

Till now, I have not seen the evidence of Rs 20000 crore being paid to A Raja. Maximum you can question the lack of an auction, why a fixed price, but there are plenty of views on both sides. However, in the subprime, there is absolute scam, fictitious profits, fictitious assets, fleecing poor homeowners, rigging the whole economy, making the whole world economy crash and not even a single arrest. That is the way the US deals with this.'

Just to be clear I don't think corruption is good anywhere in the world, but I am  just pointing out the way west looks at east and never bother to fix its own problems.

Two ideas worth consideration

Reducing Transmission Loss in Electricity Distribution system(Power transfer) and improving the efficiency of battery capacity in Regenerative Braking…two ideas worth consideration.

These have huge potential for reducing the energy wastage.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simplify Tax Rules

We have a complicated Tax system which supports the rich and dishonest people. We have too many loopholes for avoiding Tax. We need to have a simple Tax structure - fixed percentage of Income as Income Tax, Profit as  Corporate Tax and Sales value as Sales Tax. No deductions, No Credits.

I understand it will discourage some spendings such as Charity spending, spending on buying a solar panel etc. But there are other ways to help those industries or organizations. Government can create a fund to support specific initiatives.

This will ensure people can not make false claims for Tax deductions, simplified Tax codes will reduce the need for Billion dollar Tax Preparation industry(which does not add any value to the society) and government can reduce Tax Audit related overheads.

All can spend their time on more productive activities.

Think about it!

Foreclosed Houses on Rent

We have excess capacity in the Housing market(1 million homes were foreclosed in 2010 and 13% of all the homes in the United States are sitting empty). Banks and Investors are loosing money on these assets.

At the same time Rent is increasing across US. This is absurd. There is an imbalance.

Why can't Banks start renting the Foreclosed houses at lower rents(less than mortgage payment but they will still make some money and still own the asset for future appreciation). The Rents will be reduced across US and eventually the balance will return to US Housing market.

I think it is a much better proposition than Banks trying to sell the properties which is again reducing the value of the properties(+ve feedback loop moving the House prices downwards).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Need of the hour:Remove the Guesswork from Driving

Left Turns, Blind Spots, Lane Changes, Back Gears - Just consider if we could remove the guesswork from driving! I think we can avoid thousands of car accidents, millions in medical and insurance costs if we can arrange better sensors and have a handshaking mechanism(wireless signalling based protocol) in place. Let's consider different cases:

Left Turns and Lane changes: We need to have new devices, protocol and laws to eliminate the guesswork. When a Car wants to change the lane or take a left turn(driver can indicate through Indicators) the other stakeholder car driver(which must agree to avoid the collision) will get a notice(using some wireless signals activating some alert sounds) to 'approve' the request for lane change. The car requesting the lane change can only take the turn once this request is approved(again through a wireless signal). This Request Approval process will be recorded and in case of any accident during the lane change the history will be analyzed. If the driver made the turn without the Approval - it will be his/her fault. But if the other driver 'approved' the turn and still hit the car during lane change - the driver approving the Turn will be at fault.

Blind spots and Sudden stops: Blind spot driving(backing or taking left turns in a 4-way crossing) and Sudden stops cause lot of car accidents. We need sensor mechanism in place so that driver knows that a moving car is nearby reducing any guesswork. Also the need to stop(forcefully) if it recognizes a potential collision(the car in the from suddenly stops or while backing driver is going to hit a wall etc.).

Introduction of these technologies is not that difficult. I think the difficult piece is the agreement of this protocol(may require new driving laws) and corresponding unlearning and relearning by all the drivers. But considering the huge potential this is worth the effort.

TED - How it can close the Digital Divide and Democratize Ideas worth Spreading

TED (stands for 'Technology Entertainment Design') is one of the best nonprofit organizations in the world. Its mission: spreading ideas - really good ideas. TED arranges conferences in different parts of the worlds where remarkable speakers and innovators share their thoughts. The best thing is even if you don't have time and  money to attend those conferences you can listen to those 'TEDTalks' online, free of charge whenever you want(there is even a shared list of TEDTalks available here). They have even extended their reach through different initiatives such as TEDx events(designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level), TED Open Translation Project(TEDTalks beyond the English-speaking world by offering subtitles, interactive transcripts and the ability for any talk to be translated by volunteers worldwide),TED Books(imprint of short nonfiction works designed for digital distribution), TED Conversations(discussions in on different issues) etc. This is truly an outstanding accomplishment!

TED has potential to change the world in a big way. TED can democratize the process of Innovation and provide new meaning in millions of lives around the world. I dream of a day when an inquisitive mind in the poorest village of  a developing country will have access to TEDTalks. Motivated by an inspiring speech she will do some experiment(may be just mind experiment) and suggest a solution to a major problem facing us. TED will share those incremental innovations with Businesses, Nonprofits and Governments. Someone will find value in those ideas and try it in a big way and thus those ideas will become the 'Next Practice'. The talented, poor village girl will be able to contribute and get recognition which is unthinkable today. I envision TED as a Global Hub for Innovation. The democratization of Innovation and open exploration of different perspectives(people from developed and developing countries can provide rich perspectives which can accelerate Innovation) are absolutely necessary for a sustainable future world and TED can make that happen.

Next consider a different perspective altogether. There is no lack of good ideas - but they don't reach the tipping point. What is lacking is the promotion of those ideas among masses and creation of a meaningful social transformation. Consider the case of Healthy Lifestyle - we have great ideas around this. But many people do not have right information or there is no social drive to follow this. Healthy or Green Lifestyle practices can dramatically improve our lives but what is frustrating to see is the lack of execution. I believe people are not inherently lazy, stupid or selfish  but they need leadership, engagement and tangible motivation to drive a change. Most of the media has miserably failed to guide and engage society. You need examples? Let me start with TV. Serials and Soaps - everyone is conspiring to harm others - this is 'mind pollution', if you always see the world through negative lens how can you expect people to behave friendly and trust each other? Movies - another major source of 'mind pollution' - Violence,destruction and hatred. Newspapers and New channels - noise of Stock performance(buy this, sell that) discussions(by so called 'Technical Specialists') to help the Financial Services industry to make money. Sorry I missed out another Big Item - 'Reality Shows'  -tremendous wastage of your time. I think most people in the world do not have a choice today to see programs around meaningful discussions, Infotainments and opportunity for mass engagements to drive the change. I think most of the people can differentiate good from bad and there is an opportunity, an unmet need for providing good content through different distribution channels(TV, Cinema, Live Discussion etc.).

Let's consider one more issue before I discuss some proposals. This is the issue of 'Digital Divide' - 'Havs' and 'Have-nots' of Internet era. Many people in the world still do not have access to High Speed Internet or even computers. It is true even in developed countries such as USA but is more prominent problems in Developing countries such as India. In India many people even can't read or write(I am not talking about English literacy, there are millions of people who can't read/write in any language) and access to High Speed Internet is a distant dream for them. How can we access these population and help them to make informed decisions? Teaching them How to Read and write - good idea but we have not have enough resources(time, money, people) to reduce adult literacy. Increasing Internet Access in poor villages- again good idea but it needs time and money(need government subsidy support as many poor do not have money to pay for the service). Why don't we try things which are already available? We have movie halls, we have TVs we have convention theaters(even if in some primitive form) even in the remotest places. And instead of written material why can't we provide the audio-visual content in local languages(which everyone can understand making it very appealing).

Here are some of my proposals for a sustainable TED revolution around the world. TED ideas are still limited to very small group of people who can access in some form(Paid conferences, Online through High Speed Internet etc.). We need to scale up the access around the world through different delivery channels. This needs considerable resource(money, people etc.) and TED can arrange that by changing the Business model to some extent. TED can partner with different TV channels, Movie distribution houses, Cable operators, Local Non-profits to deliver the content in the form of small TV Programs(sponsored by Ads), short films dubbed in local languages(multiple TED Talks on similar themes), On Demand TED Talks(paid cable content), TED Talks recordings in Non-profit conferences etc. As told before we have a unmet market need for good content around the world and if distributed(in right language, in right place and in right form) and promoted properly it will be well-accepted.

Skeptics will say that we already have Discovery channel and other Infotainment channels available globally, and they have not been very successful in capturing the market share. Most people still see Politics, Soap or Reality Show when they watch TV or they prefer an Action thriller when they try Video-on-demand. My take is that they have not perfected the content delivery and promotion piece to keep viewers engaged. The programs need to be planned around themes/serial format(not just some 30 minute random Informational programs), they need to be more interactive(for viewer participation and engagement) and they need to be customized based on viewers socioeconomic demographies(one Indian village farmer may not be interested on modern art in Europe but may be very interested in Solar Energy solutions). They have other delivery issues - the content is not delivered in local languages and the format is created towards more elite audience(assumes some familiarity with the terms, issues etc.). Also the convergence is missing - we do not have uniform collaborative interface between web, TV, Movie, OnDemand video and other delivery channels. People love to see results and they love collaboration. If after seeing a program on Healthy Living they can collaborate(through remarks, live conversations, meetups) and really see improved results(by competing with their peers they also able to reduce the bodyweight etc.) they will be more engaged and that will be the tipping point of this revolution.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Generation Microfinance –Financial Inclusion beyond microloans

Microfinance has become a big phenomenon in developing countries in last decade. Private Equity and Venture Capital investors recently made a lot of money in the SKS Microfinance IPO in India. But after that SKS and other Microfinance organizations were in the center of the controversy for charging very high interests to the poor (political parties alleged they are behaving like loan sharks and poor people are committing suicide for their harassment). In Bangladesh Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank (which have a different Business philosophy from SKS and other Indian counterparts – they don’t believe in Capital Market participation and for-profit role of microfinance) was also part of different controversies including charges of corruption. In this article I will propose some solutions beyond microloans and how that can benefit poor and at the same time be a profitable business (win-win case).

I believe present form of Microfinance Business practice is not sustainable. A poor with no business experience can not take a loan with 24% Interest and still make money. This must go down a lot. The only way you can do this is by taking Banking License and getting cheaper Deposits from the poor. This is also beneficial for the poor as they will create a habit for saving money. My thought: take deposit @5% rate and provide loans @15% max.

Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) should create Credit rating program to assess the risk (both individual credit risk as well as systemic risk). A person having multiple loans and not using the fund for Asset generating purpose should not be given new loans. We need to consider Loan/Income ratio (Responsible lending), usage of loans and other responsible lending practices. Lending growth without considering the quality of growth can be catastrophic (similar to subprime crisis)

MFIs need to create new Business opportunities such as Micro mutual funds - Few people venture to start their own business, but they can invest some money in Stock market and create wealth. MFIs should start their own asset management business (low cost Index funds) for the poor. After MF Entry load was abolished no MF distributor wants to sell Mutual Products (MF) to the rural or urban poor. There has been a major gap to tap this market. Capital market penetration in India is still very poor. MFIs can leverage their existing relationship and infrastructure to service this market.

MFI Network can be leveraged for selling Bottom of the pyramid plays such as alliance marketing revenues for related products for the poor (which really helps them, not just for making money). Informing the Indian poor (having no access to Internet) about New Product/Services can be an win-win proposition for the Product/Services vendors, Poor consumers as well as the MFIs.

Green Business Solution – Different Perspectives

Changing user attitude is the toughest part of any sustainability solution. More or less we all understand our carbon footprints and how we can lower that impact. But this is a Game Theory problem – ‘Even if I do my part of sustainable living others will not and we all will face the same circumstances. Then why should I compromise?’ My solution tries to address this problem. Here are my proposals:

Charge as you use (variable pricing) and increase the rate enough to motivate people to stop wasting:

Consider the use of water – we pay fixed rate slabs for using water rather than using per gallon. Meaning you may use anywhere between 0-500 gallon and still pay the same price (say $20 per month), 500-1000 gallon and still pay a price slightly more than 0-500 gallon usage (say $30 per month). As you see the price of Natural resources such as water is still very low (who cares for $20 or $30 if you earn $5000 per month) and the fixed slab pricing does not allow enough rewards to motivate sustainable usage. I provided the example of water but this is true for almost all natural resources including oil (oil price is not enough high to motivate people to use public transport or carpool or at least consider reasonable use of car driving – people can afford to drive 60 miles every day to go to office and then another 20 miles to buy groceries – they don’t care to live near office or do grocery shopping once a week), paper(we all fire printouts without considering the need – the price of paper is so low that it does not matter), meat(meat prices are not high enough to motivate people to eat vegetarian food) etc.

My proposals –

Follow the best practices of Steady State Economics (SSE). Let’s first understand the basic philosophy of SSE

Basic Concept of Steady State Economy:
We measure the Progress of an Economy by GDP growth numbers or Performance of a Company by Earnings growth. Higher the growth, better the case for it.
But proponents of the Steady State Economy think that perpetual economic growth is not possible considering the fact that the natural resources are limited. We have limited space in this world (till the time, we can colonize other planets) and hence if we continue to increase the population and everyone starts to consume more and more each day (conventional concept of growth) we cannot sustain. We won't have enough food to eat, enough place to live and enough clear air to breath. On the other hand recession or economic contraction is not healthy or sustainable. Hence a new model was created: Steady State Economy (SSE). In SSE we don't look for growth but concentrate on improving the quality of existing life. A SSE provides a better means for current and future generations to achieve a high quality of life without undermining the life-support systems of the planet. SSE tries to price resources in an itemized manner (for example Cap-and-Trade) so that right kind of checks-and-balances is in place ensuring right amount of usage by everybody.
"A steady state economy features policies that aim for sustainable scale, fair distribution of wealth, efficient allocation of resources, and high quality of life.  Living in such an economy would be more satisfying for citizens today and provide more opportunities for future generations. One way to think about a non-growing economy is simply to look around at the current state of affairs. If the economy stopped growing today, we would have just what you see out there. We would have our current population and stock of natural and human-built capital into the foreseeable future. Investment would be redirected toward maintaining those stocks of capital. Energy usage would stabilize (or decrease if we started using energy resources more sparingly and more efficiently). The difference in income levels between the richest and poorest people in society would shrink. Society would focus on economic development (such as educational empowerment, poverty alleviation, and high-quality employment opportunities) rather than uneconomic growth." 1

Price natural resources on variable basis ($.1 per gallon for first 50 gallon, $.2 per gallon for next 50 gallon of water uses etc.) – this will ensure people control the use of resources for their own financial benefit.

Price natural resources at much higher rate - Account and include the Carbon footprint price to increase the price – Price of water, oil, paper, meat need to increase to motivate people to moderate the consumption.

Benchmark people’s behavior against acceptable use:

People perform better if they get constant feedback on how they are doing. Today we do not have intelligent metering systems suggesting the usage of natural resources.

My proposals –

Provide intelligent metering and alerting system so that people can measure their performance against the acceptable numbers: example- if acceptable use of water for a bath is say 10 gallons – once a person has consumed 5 gallon of water he/she will get an alert that “You have consumed 50% of the acceptable water use for one bath”. Once the usage increases to say 15 gallon it will stop the water flow and provide an alert that “You have consumed more than 150% of the acceptable use of water. Think Green. If you really need water to complete this case please restart your count as a separate case”. Stopping the water flow will make sure two things – 1. If the water flow was accidentally on it will be stopped thus reducing any wastage. 2. If the user is overusing resources it will make a serious case for him to change his behavior.

Case for office us of Paper, Electricity etc.- Create a alert and accounting mechanism for responsible use of office supplies – You will get an alert if you are printing above specific number of pages or your computer is Switched on at night.

Use Smart Devices/Processes to reduce waste

We waste a lot of natural resources which can be stopped by introducing smart devices. If we need hot water we have to keep our water flows open for some time before hot water starts flowing. That creates a lot of water wastage.

Similarly when we send emails to multiple people they each receive individual copies of the same email – what a waste of server space!!

My Proposals –

For minimizing water waste: Create an intelligent device which will start hot water flow when the water is ready hot (say at a set temperature).

For minimizing email server space wastage: Rather than sending separate copies of emails to each recipients keep a single copy and provide read access to that copy as email. If someone ‘deletes’ the email only the view access is deleted for him/her and not the actual email. If someone ‘Reply All’ the original email another conversation copy is generated only for the added comments and appropriate access is provided to the ‘reply All’ recipients. Again if someone deletes the Reply all email the access is deleted and not the whole email.

Less is more in Green IT - Tao minimalism can make organizations more effective, profitable and green:

With the coming of cap-and-Trade and other Green regulations IT will have more importance in reducing the waste, minimizing the costs and increasing the profits. Organizations can improve their Green strategy by integrating it with the Core Business strategy and changing the Organizational culture. The Organizations can become more competitive and create long-term shareholder value by following a minimalist approach and focusing on the core competencies.

Two different (conflicting) roles of IT:
  1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has potential to reduce the Business As Usual(BAU) Carbon footprint by 15%(Re-Engineering save of around USD 1015 Billion by 2020) by creating smart systems(smart energy greed, Intelligent Transportation system etc.)
  2. At the same time global IT industry generates almost 2% of the Global Carbon Dioxide emissions (equivalent to greenhouse gas as the world's airlines as per Gartner study) and this share is increasing because of information overload (Typical Data center capacity double every 5 yrs etc.).

To optimize the role of IT industry we need to make sure we build smart systems which can make smart Decisions to reduce the Carbon footprint by improving the Processes, reducing redundancies, improving utilizations etc.

At the same time we need to make sure we minimize the share of Global Carbon footprint of the IT industry. This can be done either by improvement in Technology (such as Virtualization etc.)Or by minimizing the unnecessary data Processing (this is like either you control the population or minimize the per capita consumption to control the overall effect).

In this solution I will concentrate on the strategies to minimize this Information overload and thus making organizations more effective, profitable and green. The aim of this solution is to show that by integrating Green Strategy to the Core Business strategy and by making an Organization-wide culture change organizations can achieve this goal.

Culture change: An Inevitable component of Green IT strategy

Corporations have historically given more importance to doing more things. The employees have been encouraged to do more: Deliver more Projects, Manage more People, Create more knowledge artifacts, send emails to more people (Distribution list and Reply all), attend more meetings, stay more time in office etc. Unfortunately this mindless growth culture is not effective. We need to appreciate the fact that by doing less we can achieve more. We can save time, money and energy by selectively creating what we do best and increase our effectiveness.

We think the organizations can improve their Carbon footprint by following a minimalist philosophy. Too many activities go on in large organizations without any planning and focus on the long term vision. We do too many Projects which are not aligned with Long term Business strategy. We have many activities or processes which are redundant and can be avoided (thus reducing cost and carbon footprint). We spend too much time on doing and too less time on thinking “What is the best thing to do and how best we can do it”. We produce too much unnecessary things and thus focus less on which is really important. We need to stop this noise and concentrate on core things which are really important. Let me provide you an example:

Green enthusiasts always push for minimizing the use of paper. This is absolutely necessary and a must for Green IT strategy. But what we generally miss out is the cost and carbon footprint associated with Electronic documents. We create millions of documents related to Projects, processes, Knowledge artifacts, financial reports, emails etc. but never care about the quantity and quality of those documents. Many times they are just simple crap, do not add any value, redundant and can be eliminated. Just consider the Storage Server utilization and related power costs. Worse we make these documents searchable (Intranet or Internet). Just consider the recurring cost, time; power and energy we waste on these searches (consider the carbon footprint of all these servers). Good example: Company Knowledge repository – thousands of copy-paste documents without adding any value or any Google search producing too many unnecessary items.

If we run the numbers these costs are serious. Just multiply the number of documents with number of users making number of searches every day.

How to improve?
  • Assess the IT Infrastructure and processes for redundancy and quality of data. Put stringent quality control on the documents which can be searched across the Enterprise or Internet.
  • Minimize junk data entering the system. Design an intelligent IT system which will have controls in place to persuade users to enter right/True data. This can be done by integrating IT systems across the organization and putting logic in place to validate the entered data based on available data in the system.
  • Concentrate on reuse and minimizing redundancy. Rather than creating multiple similar Know-how documents create a single one and allow everyone to improvise it (wiki style).
  • Encourage quality over quantity: Allow your employees to think and come up with something really good rather than ordering them to create twenty ordinary items. Improve effectiveness and productivity (by quality not by quantity perspective).
  • Discourage email (especially group emailing), meetings and other time-waster wherever possible.
  • Block Junk websites and emails as much as possible through Security policy implementation.
  • Sensitize employees on the importance of green behavior and how small changes can ultimately lead to big savings. Create right reward and recognition scheme for motivating employees to come up with innovative ideas to save.
  • Use automation for implementing green behavior. Create a popup form if some user fires a printout of more than 5 pages (ask about the need of the printout and audit the responses).

Integrate Green Strategy with the Core Business strategy:

Beside the culture change, we need top management focus to align Green IT strategy with core business strategy. Superficial execution of Green IT strategy will not be successful. Green IT Strategy needs to be integrated with the Core Business Strategy of creating Long term Shareholder value. From that perspective Green strategy can be simple: Focus only on your key strengths, do less, do it smart, avoid waste and achieve more.

Strengthen your core Business and selectively invest on Projects which creates long term shareholder value. Gartner research shows 80% of the IT Investment money is ‘dead-money’ - simple waste of resources.2  These investments do not add any value to your business but add to your Carbon footprint and cost numbers. Improve the quality of Investment Decision making system to minimize this waste.

How to improve?
  • Focus on High Impact Investments and minimize the waste. Consider improving the Investment Decision making process by creating an intelligent system based on actual data (rather than vague estimates).
  • The best business case for Green IT can be minimizing waste, reducing costs and thus increasing profit. In future with Cap-and-trade and more regulations in place Green IT will be the core differentiator in the marketplace.
  • Analyze your Organization cost and carbon footprint (including Energy audits for operational costs) and find out which are the big impact areas you can attack to control it. Focusing on small number of Projects will make it more effective. Do something really meaningful rather than selling ‘The idea of Green’ and spending big money on PR (Green contest, Earth day or Green apparel).
  • Effective use of Green IT strategy can help to reduce the Carbon footprint of other departments within the organization if the strategies of these departments work hand-in-hand. As a real-life example, international retail giant Tesco found that IT’s contribution to the company’s total carbon footprint is only 4% — but that IT has the enabling potential to reduce total carbon footprint by 20%.

How we can solve world obesity crisis, food crisis and green energy crisis in one go

Let’s analyze some history. Today our primary source of energy is fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas etc. They were created millions of years ago from the decomposition of forests etc. They are so-called non-renewable sources of energy because it takes millions of years to recreate that (we consume them at a much faster rate). Their energy density is very high and that’s why they are much easier to use than renewable sources of energies such as solar, wind etc. But bottom-line is ultimate source of energy in earth is sunlight. And photosynthesis by plants (green) is the only process to capture that energy which can be used by living organisms (plants and animals etc.). We need to find out how (chemical or physical transformation process) the decomposition of forests improved the energy density of the fossil fuels – was this just the addition of millions of years of stored energy in a very less volume or something different. That is critical but even if we don’t understand that we can still find some temporary solution. We have seen biofules such as ethanol mixed with gasoline to supplement our energy needs. Only problem with that is ethanol comes from sugar – and sugar plantation needs a lot of water and agricultural space. Critics say, use of biofules increase the price of food (simply by demand supply curve – biofules provide better price for farmers than rice or other foods and hence they are encouraged to plant sugar than other food items) and thus cause world food crisis.

Now let’s analyze the problem of obesity. Evolutionary biologists suggest that our body was built to do a lot physical activities. With the development of Technological innovation the need for such physical activity has reduced dramatically. But we have continued to consume the same amount of food/energy intake causing mass obesity. Doctors suggest doing some physical activity in the gym such as running in the treadmill etc. to compensate for the extra calorie intake. Now let’s see how all these problems can be merged into a single solution.

My proposed solution
Instead of consuming electricity driven treadmill why can’t we create man driven small electric generators (instead of motors we will create generators so that the energy conversion is just the opposite from mechanical to electrical). Also we will create different ways to capture manual energy (mechanical energy) and transform them into electrical energy. Possible ways - pressure while walking in roads can create electricity etc. Advantages – we can continue to consume enough yummy food we like to eat (no diet and as we can eliminate biofules our food prices will be within control – no food crisis), we will still have to do physical exercises to keep ourselves in shape but at least it will have motivational aspects (we can generate our own energy and reduce our electricity bill rather than increased electricity bill for gym machines). We need technological innovation (such as smart grids etc.) but I believe still this is a viable solution for obesity, energy and food crisis. I am not suggesting this can replace fossil fuel use 100% but with other renewable energies such as solar, wind etc. we should be able to meet a major portion of our energy needs.

  1. What would a steady state economy look like?

  1. Gartner Research that 80% of the IT Investments is dead money